In 1988, the U.S. recognized the 31-day stretch between September 15 and October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. Since then, there’s been heated debate over its purpose and even its name.
Some believe the term “Hispanic” reduces a large, nuanced and very complex portion of the U.S. population to a monolith; the term often invokes an identity that’s unfamiliar or even rejected by many of the people it is meant to celebrate. Others believe that it unites us. As we slide between Hispanic, Latinx, Latine, and any other term that we feel identifies us best, I invite you to reflect on how each of us brings a unique, vibrant, unbreakable thread to the tapestry.
I’ve always identified simply as Puertorriqueña from Bayamón, where my parents raised me until I moved to New York City, where I was forced to fit into a category that made others comfortable with my identity: Hispanic, Latino/a/e/x. On a daily basis, I had to correct a handful of people that called me “Spanish.” No, we’re not “Spanish” just because we speak the language, just like not everyone who speaks English is “English.”
In most Latino households in and out of the U.S., the month-long tribute to us goes completely unnoticed. Instead, we focus on celebrating the holidays that are specific to our individual cultures and the traditions that keep us close to our heritage ― for instance, the Puerto Rican Day parade in Florida or New York, as well as Día de los Muertos for the Mexican community.
A lingering question remains every year: Who is Latine Heritage Month really for? Nuestra gente, or corporate America as an excuse to bombard la comunidad with advertising in the hopes to speak to the Latinx consumer that’s often overlooked year-round? See, we celebrate our cultura every single day of the year.
It’s time to center the artists and creators who ensure that the conversations don’t end in October. HuffPost’s newly relaunched Voices puts people at the heart and forefront of every single story, 365 days a year. The mic is always passed to reveal a diverse range of topics, perspectives and realities in a sincere and relatable voice. That’s why I am honored to have curated a set of stories that highlight how our community has greatly impacted the fabric of American culture and history as we know it today. It will inevitably kickstart a movement of content in the section that represents all of our experiences unapologetically and authentically.
Latinx trailblazers — and the stories we tell — deserve a platform that allows our work to be seen as mainstream brilliance. Every day is Latine Heritage Month for us. I hope this collection helps those outside the community understand what we so eagerly celebrate, and what we’re happily leaving behind.
Vamos pa’ lante,